Monday, March 05, 2007

 
I usually pay no attention to studies, but this caught my eye:

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Childhood obesity in the United States appears to be causing girls to reach puberty at an earlier age, for reasons that are not clear, a study said on Monday.

The report from the University of Michigan's Mott Children's Hospital said a multiyear study following a group of 354 girls found that those who were fatter at age 3 and who gained weight during the next three years reached puberty, as defined by breast development, by age 9.

"Our finding that increased body fatness is associated with the earlier onset of puberty provides additional evidence that growing rates of obesity among children in this country may be contributing to the trend of early maturation in girls," (emphasis mine) said Dr. Joyce Lee, the lead author.

"Previous studies had found that girls who have earlier puberty tend to have higher body mass index, but it was unclear whether puberty led to the weight gain or weight gain led to the earlier onset of puberty," she added.

"Our study offers evidence that it is the latter," Lee said.

Earlier studies have found that U.S. girls are reaching puberty earlier than was the case 30 years ago, a time span during which rates of childhood obesity also increased, the study said.
In the study girls were classified as at risk for being overweight if their body mass index (a measurement of weight related to age and height) was between the 85th and 95th percentiles, and defined as overweight if the measurement was greater than the 95th percentile.


The researchers said that 168 of the girls were classified as being "in puberty" by the age of 9 and nearly two dozen reported having their first menstrual period by two years later.
Higher body mass index scores at all ages had a "strong association with earlier onset of puberty, the authors said.


The study was published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"Earlier onset of puberty in girls has been associated with a number of adverse outcomes, including psychiatric disorders and deficits in psychosocial functioning, earlier initiation of alcohol use, sexual intercourse and teenage pregnancy and increased rates of adult obesity and reproductive cancers," the study said. (emphasis mine)

so...does this say "sixth-grade girls with big boobs are crazy drunk sluts" or is it just me?

(now if that doesn't spike my troll level, nothing will...)

Comments:
What about adolescent boys? Have similar observations been made therein? Can we expect situmacations like that South Park episode in which all the girls(except Wendy)aspire to be "Stupid Spoiled Whores"(owing to the name of the new store in the mall)and terrorize their male classmates with aggressive Donald Trump-esque come-ons?

My mother, a middle school administrator(sort-of)has stories from the war front; she claims the average dream for middle school girls(mind you, it's a fairly urban environment here in New Britski)is to seduce a rap mogul and have his baby.

Mind you, I teach guitar in Avon(non CT people- Avon is 15 miles from New Britain and has probably five times the per capita income)but the story is similar, just more economically sound. There, they aspire to be trophy wives.

Between the rBgH in the milk/meat supply and the aggressive marketing tactics with a salacious slant used on children it doesn't seem surprising at all. I just wonder if the study wasn't done on boys because it wouldn't be as newsworthy.
 
a sort of side question: Is this Cinderella-style aspiration encouraged by parents or discouraged, in your experience?

Between the rBgH in the milk/meat supply and the aggressive marketing tactics with a salacious slant used on children it doesn't seem surprising at all. I just wonder if the study wasn't done on boys because it wouldn't be as newsworthy.

good point on the hormones in meat and milk.

and yeah, this is pretty much why I tend to avoid taking any "study" seriously. no matter what the original intent of the scientists was, by the time it gets to the general public, the study functions solely as a headline-generator.

I mean, someone somewhere might be doing a study on early puberty in boys - but why report on it when you can whip people into a frenzy about the dangers of boobs in elementary school?
 
Oh, for fuck's sake. I have never had an ounce of excess body fat, yet I started puberty at the ripe old age of ten; my period started by 11. I was also raised in a two-parent home with my biological father so the theory that the MRAs like to spout that girls raised without their father are likely to start puberty early is also out the window.

""Earlier onset of puberty in girls has been associated with a number of adverse outcomes, including psychiatric disorders and deficits in psychosocial functioning, earlier initiation of alcohol use, sexual intercourse and teenage pregnancy and increased rates of adult obesity and reproductive cancers," the study said."

Being sexually or otherwise abused can also have this outcome. So can a whole myriad of other factors, including lack of sex education.

Why does early puberty have to be viewed as a bad thing? Perhaps early onset of puberty in girls is some form of natural evolution that has nothing at all to do obesity or fathers?
 
Same here -- not an ounce of extra body fat and I started puberty at 9 years of age. The only damage done to me was the sexual harassment I received from men and boys which was stressful for a 9 year old to have to deal with.
 
I'm wondering if the drinking and psychological effects are from peer harassment rather than from actually reaching puberty earlier. I hit puberty at 10 and was sexually harassed almost continually until we moved when I was 16. It was enough to drive me to drink(as well as other things)
 
Winter and Rootie,

Just curious, were you both raised in traditonal, nuclear families?
 
Faith- yes. Stay at home mother, professor father, older brother, dog, cat, brick house in a neighborhood. As traditional as it gets. (except for all the other stuff)I was not a body-fatless kid, but I wasn't chubby either. Just average. Except for the boobs at 11.
 
I'm not sure I'm buying the obesity leads to early puberty argument. I was "in puberty" - breast development, periods - at 9 and I was a thin, athletic kid who swam every day.
This is the problem I have with the reporting of a lot of stories about scientific research - they don't give you enough information for the reader to judge whether the study was performed in such a way that the findings might have some validity.
On the other hand it is pretty much proven that high levels of body fat increase production of estrogen (and low levels inhibit it, hence anorexics stop menstruating at a certain point). Honesly, we'd need a lot more information to judge validity.
RE earlier puberty - which on an anecdotal level does seem to be happening - I think the adequator's point about hormones in food etc might be a more likely explanation. I wonder if anyone's done a study focusing on the kids of new agey types (lots of them here in the Bay Area) who grew up being fed mostly organic food and generally insulated from nasty chemicals as much as their parents could manage. They might be a possible control group.
 
I'm thinking growth hormones in food have alot to do with height/size. I can go into the high school today and see that kids over 6 feet tall are the norm. 25 years ago when I was in High School 6 feet tall was extraordinary. Especially in girls. There are ALOT of very tall, very well-built young women, enough so that it's not remarkable at all. They would have been considered Amazons back in the day.
Part of me wonders if it's an evolutionary process.
 
Rootie's pretty much hit it on the nose - girls who hit puberty earlier tend to be subject to more harrassment, sexual and otherwise, greater pressure to be adult earlier than their peers. They tend to hang out with older kids - people who look like them, physically - and as such are exposed to alcohol and drug use earlier than their similar peers might. I can't remember what the psychosocial problems stem from, but offhand (I don't have the textbook that discussed a similar study on hand), I believe it was hypothesized that this was because of changes in parental treatment.

Guys also have a negative outcome, though it's not reported in this study: "early bloomers" tend to be more aggressive, hostile, and, like the girls, more likely to drink/do drugs/have sex; "late bloomers" tend to have higher rates of depression and anxiety, along with a few other problems.

I can't remember if late-onset girls had problems. I think they tended to have higher rates of studiousness, but also higher anxiety/lower socialness? That's totally a guess based on a memory from 2 years ago, though.

These are for the extreme ends, though; the 9/10-year-olds and the 16/17-year-olds of each.



I don't think the study is saying "6th graders with big boobs are crazy drunk sluts". Of course, you can't tell that with this article, so much. It's saying "6th graders that look like they're much older are more likely to be offered/pressured into dangerous activities, at an age where they're more likely to do what the older kids say because they're older kids".
 
Rootie - Indeed. I recently went to a concert with a bunch of teenagers and was amazed how much taller than me even the 14 and 15 year old girls were. The boys were gigantic. This effect isn't limited to the US, either - I saw a study from Japan that said that the generation of boys entering college now are a whopping 7 inches taller than they were about 50 years ago (of course no one bothered to measure the girls). I would be interested to see whether the earlier puberty phenomenon is duplicated in most other heavily industrialised nations - I know it is in the UK.
Also, RE Alex's point, I think that behavioral outcomes in girls who hit puberty early can probably be mostly attributed to the way others treat them more than anything to do with puberty as a biological process. It does strange things to a girl's mind to have adult men trying to pick her up when she's 11 (as was my experience), and having older friends (also my experience) does tend to expose one to sex, drugs etc at an earlier age.
 
Huh, i was a skinny non period havin' till 15 type...with no boobies... funny how it all plays out in the end, ain't it?
 
My parents were always giving me speeches on how it was actually better to develop later than earlier, because early puberty meant early decay, so I shouldn't feel bad. I never really understood why they insisted on this, since I wasn't worried about it anyway, although it did reinforce a sense that male sexual characteristics and sexuality were disgusting. I probably did go through puberty a little on the late side, 15 or so (there isn't menarche to clearly demarcate it for men).

Anyway, years later, I was talking to my sister, and found out she'd gone through puberty around 11, which meant my younger sister went through puberty before I did. She must have overheard what my parents said to me, and it must have hurt, but I've not had the chance to talk to her about it.
 
thanks all for sharing your experiences.

Did nobody else's health class cover "big boobs and periods are NOT an indicator of promiscuity?"

I remember getting that message loud and clear. it might even have been a question on a test (more delicately phrased, I hope).

I worry that parents of 7- and 8- year old girls will read this study and think their otherwise-normal daughters are destined for a life of wretched misery, and act out of fear: "now, honey, we love you very much and we don't want you to turn into the world's biggest teenage whore and ruin your future, so let's put you on this nice diet, 'kay? let's jump on the food-obsession train NOW before you grow boobs, because the world can't cope with boobs. It's for your own good, honey. you'll thank us later."

which is not to say that I am against healthy eating and exercise habits in little girls. I'm saying that encouraging second graders to diet out of fear of breasts seems wrong to me.
 
No, we got that too; alas, a large part of the world didn't get the memo, or crumpled it up and tossed it without being bothered to read it.
 
Why am I always late to the party??? Everybody has already said everything interesting!

The first thing I thought while reading that was, it ain't the weight, it's the hormones and other drugs in our frankenstein meat/milk. I remember some years ago reading about this kid who was having terrible hormone problems, thyroid, only there was nothing wrong with his thyroid that they could find. They finally traced it to the grocery store that the family bought their meat from. The grocer was chopping up organ meat into the hamburger to make it go further, including thyroids. I'm not sure why the kid was the only one sensitive to it.

With that, I'm gonna jump this train off onto another track! This makes me think of all the people who want to argue with me that my son's vaccinations had nothing to do with his autism. I think it did, even though not every kid got autism from it, and not every kid was effected exactly the same, and even some kids who never got any vaccinations are autistic. I think the explosion of autism was caused by the increased toxins in our environment, thimerosol (mercury) in vaccines like any heavy metal can't be good for any developing brain. There are many ways to be exposed to heavy metal, the town I live in has a coal fired plant. Lead in paint, eating fish or drinking contaminated water, etc. Genetics could play a part in sensitivity to toxins, and not getting vitamins or the right nutrition during pregnancy too, I mentioned at my place we were on food stamps and WIC during my pregnancy. I don't think anything can be discounted at this point.

Now back on track...sort of. I graduated from Sheehan High School in Wallingford. I went to CCSU for a year and a half, but my parents divorced and went to live with my mom on the rez in Canada before I could finish. My father lives in Canton (near Avon), I have a sister in Newington, another in Meriden, and another still in Wallingford. I'll be moving to New Hampshire in a few months. I hope a bunch of us New England/NY bloggers can get together some time.

I'm not sure when I reached puberty since they are saying it's determined when a girl got breasts, then that would be 9, I remember getting my first bras in 4th grade because I got them nubs. I hated that they were sore all the time. But, I didn't actually get my period until I turned 13. It pissed off my older sister that I got it a month before she got hers (14). I got breasts and hairy sweaty armpits waaaaay before I got my period. Is that unusual?
 
"They finally traced it to the grocery store that the family bought their meat from. The grocer was chopping up organ meat into the hamburger to make it go further, including thyroids. I'm not sure why the kid was the only one sensitive to it."
Holy shit that's creepy. Sorry to be off-topic, but just uh. Did anyone report them? Who does one report something like that to anyway?
Donna - For me the breasts and the periods appeared at the same time, but I'm not sure if it usually goes that way. Actually I'm not sure why they're defining puberty by breast development rather than menstruation at all, since breast development is a rather nebulous thing to try to measure - all kinds of room for error there.
I'm totally with you as far as the idea that most of the increase in many childhood ailments can probably be attributed to environmental and food-borne toxins, though. Cancer, too.
 
"This makes me think of all the people who want to argue with me that my son's vaccinations had nothing to do with his autism."

Donna -

I have a friend who is something of a child development expert. He is ADAMANTLY against vaccinations. I told him I had been getting vaccinations for my children and he freaked. He made me promise to stop taking my kids for their vaccinations.

Check this out:

http://www.devdelay.org/issues.html#vaccines
 
Should have added that you need to scroll down the page to the vaccinations section...
 
I wish I could remember the exact details to find the article, but I'm pretty sure it was the health department that found out about the thyroids in the hamburger by testing the families meats. The grocer then admitted he had been chopping organ meats into the hamburger. I would hope that they charged him for tampering with the meat, but don't know if it's even illegal to do that!

I'm not anti-vaccinations even though I think it might have something to do with my son's autism. I am against giving a bunch of different vaccinations all at one time. Back in the 90's almost all of them had thimerosol in them and my son would get 3 to 5 at a time. Each one adds that small amount of mercury until it's an unacceptable level for children especially infants. Now none of the vaccinations specifically for children have thimerosol. I heard the flu shots still have it though. Right after getting his shots he had a weird reaction, he would sleep for about 10-12 hours straight. Anyone who has an infant knows that they don't do that, they sleep about 3 maybe 4 hours and wake to be fed.
 
Being sexually or otherwise abused can also have this outcome. So can a whole myriad of other factors, including lack of sex education.

Being sexualized can have this outcome, if you're a fourth grader! For fuck's sake, has it occurred to none of these asshole pseudo-scientists that getting breasts a couple years earlier than all the other girls--on top of having to be the fat girl--might not be such an easy thing to deal with? That's not because there's anything inherently traumatic about being an early bloomer. It's because your classmates verbally abuse you, sexually harass you, and just generally treat you like a freak slut.
 
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